Beck – Tropicalia (90s – 82)

May 29, 2013

I missed out on Alternative/Indie music until Triple J (ABC’s youth broadcaster) arrived in my home town in 1995. I promptly moved to Armidale, which was yet to have Triple J. But it did have 2UNE, which was receiving the same promo albums. I started getting with current trends when I joined the station in 1997, which meant Beck’s Where It’s At – released in that gap between school and 2UNE has always been something I looked back on, history. It was Tropicalia which was the first contemporary Beck track I heard, and man I was blown away.

I wasn’t fond of Central and South American music, nor it’s usage by other artists. While I loved Paul Simon’s Graceland, his Latin American-tinged Rhythm of the Saints left me cold. With the exception of some poor 60s wallpaper jazz, this was the sum total of my experience of such music. But Beck’s Tropicalia, which I had vaguely heard of, turned my head. I loved the brass. I loved the rhythm. I loved the crazy production. I loved the jauntiness of it all. I played it on air incessantly.

And yet I’d completely forgot about it until today.

I remember it because I’ve was wondering how history will remember Beck. I’ve always thought of him as restless. Mutations – the album form whence Tropicalia came – was nearing the end of his mass commercial appeal – indeed this was one of his personal project albums his contract stipulated he could release. The succeeding Midnite Vultures was his final gasp of mass radio play. From there he released a steady stream of albums, each inhabiting their own microcosm, bought up by a devoted fan base, the odd song gaining radio play no longer commanding wider appeal. This isn’t a dig at the man, but he’s always felt like someone wanting to wander his own path than wander up the charts.


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